by Bob West
If you’re heard or read much about content marketing, you’ve likely heard the story of Marcus Sheridan and his pool company, River Pools & Spas, in Richmond, Va. Attendees at the 2014 AgCatalyst Conference produced by ad agency Adfarm got to hear the story first hand from Sheridan, himself, and it’s a story any marketer should hear.
The Cliff Notes version: Sheridan’s company was doing fine until the economic crash of 2008 when consumers stopped buying new swimming pools. Sheridan and his partners found themselves desperately hunting new sales leads and lead-generating strategies. They hit on an innovative strategy Sheridan sums up as, ‘They Ask. You Answer.’
He started blogging like crazy on the company’s website, and his goal was to create a blog post that honestly and transparently answered EVERY question pool-shopping customers have. Before long, Google ranked the company’s site as the top source for just about any important pool information and record traffic volumes followed.
But the company didn’t stop there. Positive early signs renewed their commitment to blogging, but they enhanced it with intelligent lead-generating forms that promptly filled the sales funnel.
Today, River Pools & Spas’ website features 500+ blog posts, generates more traffic than any other pool company website in the world, according to Sheridan, and the company is stronger than ever. Why? Their innovative and fully committed approach to content marketing. So, what strategies did he offer ag industry marketers to employ?
1. “Honest and transparent content is the greatest sales tool in the world,” he said.
Sheridan has learned that nothing drives sales like convincing potential customers they can trust you. For example, the company only sells fiberglass pools, but they have blogged on the benefits of concrete pools and when you should buy concrete (a competitive product!) rather than fiberglass.
2. “Build your web content around your customers’ questions or needs.”
This may seem obvious, but take a few minutes to peruse the content on your site. Is the site filled with information that you want to talk about or information that your customers want? Big difference there. For example, Sheridan’s most well-read blog post ever dealt with the stickiest of issues: What does a pool cost? Talking about price publicly gives most companies sweaty palms, but Sheridan said doing so is a must if you’re committed to serving your customers’ informational needs.
3. Measure the numbers.
River Pools studies its web traffic religiously and tracks key metrics. Which posts are most widely read? Where does their traffic come from? Which blog posts result in the most leads? And so on. The audience will tell you how to shape and update your content strategy, if you’ll listen to the numbers.
4. “Your business is no different — you’re not immune to human behavior.”
Sheridan pointed out that many marketers hear his talk and think his lessons don’t apply to them. They create reasons (really, excuses!) for why they can’t or shouldn’t employ content marketing. Taking this ‘ostrich approach’ of ignoring the trend in which consumers do 70% of their research before ever talking to a company only puts your future sales at risk.
I could go on — Sheridan is a tremendous speaker sharing a wealth of information. I strongly recommend you check him out (he’s gotten into the consulting world and can be found at www.TheSalesLion.com for more information). I’ve downloaded his free ebook on content / inbound marketing and will look for more nuggets to share.
Bob West is the director of interactive sales for Meister Media. He can be reached at 440-602-9129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.